A handful of Minneapolis small business owners who back the idea of a citywide sick leave policy said Monday that they expect boosting workers’ benefits will end up helping their bottom lines.
The business owners spoke to City Council Members Elizabeth Glidden and Cam Gordon and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who spent about an hour Monday morning touring businesses around the section of Nicollet Avenue known as Eat Street. The three officials back proposals to pass a sick leave policy that could apply to all employers — an idea that has sparked controversy among some business leaders.
The tour was organized by the Main Street Alliance of Minnesota, one of several groups that has weighed in on the issue since some council members and Mayor Betsy Hodges unveiled sick-leave and scheduling proposals as part of their Working Families Agenda earlier this fall. The group is supportive of workers’ reforms, with the input of small businesses. It did not support all of the elements of the initial proposals.
At Gyst Fermentation Bar, a year-old restaurant specializing in wine, beer, cheese and other fermented foods, co-owner Ky Guse said she was uncertain at first about supporting the Working Families Agenda. The first proposals called for employers to provide workers’ schedules 28 days in advance or pay additional penalties, and to offer up to 40 or 72 hours of sick leave to all workers, depending on the size of their business.
But Guse said she and her co-owners support the sick-leave idea, and the restaurant already offers the benefit. The business pays all of its four employees a salary, rather than an hourly wage. Workers pool their tips and that money is used to help pay for sick leave.
“We sat down and we looked at our numbers and we said: These policies really matter, because people are suffering in our community,” Guse said.
At the nearby Glam Doll Donuts, owner Teresa Fox said she worked as a restaurant server for years and never had paid sick leave. She said she was so used to not having it that it never came up as part of her business plan — until city officials started talking about a new ordinance.
“Minneapolis kind of brought it to our attention,” she said. “I’d never thought of it.”
Business owners from other neighborhoods and industries, including the owner of Toppers Pizza, Eureka Recycling and Point Acupressure also gathered to share their support for a sick-leave ordinance.
Abdirahman Kahin, owner of Afro Deli, said he already provides his employees with a few days of sick leave per year.
“I feel that my employees are my family, and this is the same thing I would do for my family,” he said.
Other business owners have expressed concerns about a paid sick leave requirement, though the pushback has not been as loud as in the discussions about a sweeping scheduling requirement. Hodges and council members have tabled the scheduling provision but are pushing ahead on sick leave.
Last week, the council appointed 15 business owners, workers and labor and business group representatives to a new group that will come up with a sick-leave proposal by late February.
In the meantime, the Main Street Alliance is lobbying businesses to support the issue and for shoppers to visit those businesses. The group has posted a map on its Facebook page of about 40 businesses that have pledged their support for a sick leave ordinance.